Over the last decade, technology has been adapted to all industries. These advances pursue the need for higher efficiency, especially in a world where automation will eventually replace entire sectors of our workforce. I saw this firsthand from the perspective of a teenager growing up in the car wash industry. My family has been washing cars for more than 50 years, and I witnessed the struggles and lived the lifestyle. There was a need to simplify these headaches, so I studied software engineering.

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            Fast forward the clock…we now face seismic needs for these efficiencies. We are witnessing inflationary pressures not seen in five decades; interest rates are approaching levels that lead to economic contraction, and private equity groups are purchasing our entire industry. Our industry is beginning to replace the highest input costs with automation — if it hasn’t already happened to you, it will very soon. Less manpower and higher efficiencies will be achieved, with remote monitoring being one of the most cost-effective solutions.

Monitoring on the Go

            Imagine the seamless possibilities of adapting custom sensors to any equipment, allowing you to communicate with that equipment through your phone. You can receive alerts when there is a problem or failure, calculate revenue in real-time, and constantly track hourly use — all available and adaptable to equipment of any age.

            The need for wasted manpower goes down exponentially. Customer experiences become better. Refunds go down. Irate phone calls and vandalism decrease. Operators earn more revenue with fewer expenses because they become more efficient without even being there. That’s not surviving, that’s thriving. We all live the lifestyle and know that the car wash industry is a sacrifice in some ways. If you’re living it, you can grow your business without the extra work. Let me walk you through it.

Getting Started

            It begins with the installation of very small monitoring sensors. These sensors wire in as easily as an electronic coin acceptor; they are waterproof and can be mounted in any configuration. The sensors communicate via the internet with phones, tablets, or desktop computers. Videos of the installation processes can be viewed online and are extremely easy to understand.

            The next step is a downloadable app via the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, followed by a phone call to initialize your company’s user account and registration of devices. This portion can also be achieved by an online registration process.

            At this point, monitoring begins, and the information is fed to your device in real-time. For those of you who don’t want to experience hours staring at your phone, instant notifications are sent to your device when a problem occurs — an out-of-order is experienced, a threshold is breached on your equipment, such as a blown hose, etc. If you have a dollar bill changer, a necessary evil of this industry, you will be alerted immediately if it is out of order. The sensor will detect every malfunction that triggers the out-of-service light.

            This leads to recaptured revenue that would have been lost if the location was unattended. Many times, an attendant is no longer necessary. And at the very least, their hours can be reevaluated.

Use Cases

            In-bay automatics are monitored for revenue and out-of-order signals and pressure threshold breaches sensed from blown hoses, broken arms, split or leaking fittings, etc. The pressure sensors monitor hundreds of potential failures. They are so precise and accurate that they will sense a failure hours before it could have been noticed by human eyes.

            A slightly different pressure sensor is utilized in the self-serve bays, achieving the same outcome. For those of us who have been in this industry all our lives, imagine having the ability to know if a self-serve wand, hose, belt, fitting, etc. was going to fail in the next couple of hours. That type of technology would add years to our lives.

            Float level sensors are becoming very popular in reverse osmosis systems. I have seen these in use at hundreds of locations. These simplest solutions can instantly alert the owner if the spot-free system is keeping up with demand, safeguarding the entire system. Add another sensor on the disbursement side and the entire system is monitored for malfunctions.

            Monitoring of air compressors is quickly growing in popularity. This is due to many air-driven low-pressure systems that stop working entirely if the compressor experiences difficulties. Air-driven garage doors operate on the same platform and are easy to install.

            Over the years, my family has experienced everything regarding weather. Extreme cold, extreme heat, blizzards, flooding, all the things that make this industry difficult to devote a lifetime to. If you are shaking your head right now and nodding, temperature sensors will create incredible efficiencies and peace of mind.

            Imagine living in a region where it gets so cold you have to run the heaters at max to keep from freezing up. Then, you still must kick the door open every day to make sure they haven’t malfunctioned and caused a catastrophic freeze?

            What if the wash is closed, and you are just trying to prepare for the surge when the sun pops out? You can monitor the temperatures at your wash on your phone and receive instant alerts if there is a problem while you stay home. Do the same thing with your floor heat, and you and your employees get the day off. I have witnessed operators lowering their temperatures on equipment rooms and floor heat to unprecedented temperatures — and they do it without worry.

Return on Investment

            We all dream of a magic piece of equipment or technology that will make us more successful — more money, lower expenses, and dependability like your grandpa talked about. What if the answer wasn’t new equipment but knowing when and where it will malfunction?

            Increase the life expectancy for your equipment and become a much more efficient operator without having to depreciate a new capital expense. Everywhere I see these platforms, I get the same response, “You would not believe this.” Many operators experience a full return on their sensor platform technology in about six months. Those incredible returns reflect the efficiencies that will help replan your days, lessen the workload of necessary employees, and make you almost as efficient as artificial intelligence. The sensors won’t dump trash, but I’m sure that’s coming.

Logan Lawson owns and operates Sensor Dynamix, a computer software company in Hutchinson, KS. His sensors and software are sold through Kleen-Rite Corp, while his family owns and operates 30 car wash locations in small- to intermediate-sized towns across Kansas. They have more than 115 years of combined experience in the industry. Logan can be reached for questions or comments at sensordynamix@gmail.com.